The Ghost of Al Capone

My Aunt, who has long since passed, claimed that she knew Ralph Capone and had a date with him. And she had heard that his brother Al, was trying to really help other businesses in Chicago prosper but that all changed and no one that knew the infamous man talked about him in later years. He became Public Enemy #1 and better known as Scarface; the most dangerous organized crime leader of all time. Al Capone was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York working brothels there and came to work for Johnny Torrio, in Chicago as a body guard and was hit by a gang. He was an Italian-American mobster who helped build the Chicago Outfit in the 1920s deciding to retire giving Al Capone his entire business.

Al’s brothers came from New York to help which included Ralph. Al was truly Untouchable like the movie about until he prompted the St. Valentines Day Massacre though he was not officially connected to the rival gangs murders. Al expanded the boot-legging business which he ran for seven years and was put in jail for tax evasion in 1931. He was also suffering from neurosyphilis and had know for sometime that he had but was embarrassed to get treatment. He was released from prison because he was so sick after 8 years and died at his Miami Beach home on Palm Island on January 25, 1947 at the age of 43. Sources say his mind was that of a 12 year old and died of cardiac arrest after a stroke.

Where is Al Capone’s ghost now?

Maribel Caves Hotel in Wisconsin was demolished in 2013 but some say the Capone who owned it still walks on the premise.

Many still claim to see his ghost sitting at the bar of the Congress Hotel which is haunted with many ghosts. He was known to hang out there and have many a business meeting. Several of his friends actually lived in the hotel in the 1920’s and 1930’s. The corridors where used for smuggling and many other illegal activities.

Capone’s home at 7244 South Prairie Ave., Chicago was originally built in 1908, and purchased by the mafia boss in 1923. Capone lived there until he bought his Miami home and after that, he gave his Chicago home to his mother. The house had few owners; the house finally sold to for 226,000 in 2019 being on the market for several years.

The Green Mill Cocktail Lounge is the beating heart of Uptown’s historic entertainment district. Chicagoans have enjoyed drinks and music here since 1907, when it opened as a roadhouse. Capone henchman “Machine Gun” Jack McGurn ran the joint during Prohibition. Chicago Tours have frequently designed custom tours that visit this famous juke joint though I have not seen any ghosts there when I have visited.

He has been seen by many floating by the Chamber of Commerce in Chicago as well as sitting on a bench. Some say they have seen him at a Bulls game.

Windy City Ghosts offers some great Chicago Gangster Tours. The tour is perfect for people who want to learn more about the Second City’s history, those who would like to get to know a specific Chicago neighborhood in depth, as well as those interested in the paranormal. Everyone is welcome, from ghost tour newbies to history buffs to professional ghost hunters. Gangsters and Ghosts offer a walking tour on the streets to really acquaint yourself with the infamous city of Chicago, through a guided Chicago Gangster Tour or Ghost Tour, detailing the crimes, deals, and charisma that made the city what it is today.

More Prairie Avenue Ghosts

I love to walk up and down the historic avenue. I have read many historical novels such as Prairie Avenue by Arthur Meeker.  Its always a new field trip to walk with the ghosts on Millionaires Row and to read about them. Residents of the street have influenced the evolution of the city and have played prominent national and international roles moving there after the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. By 1886, the finest mansions in the city, each equipped with its own carriage house, stood on Prairie Avenue. In the 1880s, mansions for George Pullman, Marshall Field, John J. Glessner, Philip Armour and Kimball. Mansions were located between 16th and 22nd streets.

A few of the mansions do remain such as the Glessner House which is a active museum and the Henry B. Clarke house, also a museum. The Marshall Field, Jr. Mansion at 1919 South Prairie Avenue, now condos, is marvel of preservation and sensitive reuse. And many say that Prairie Avenue is haunted.

Glessner House was designed by noted American architect Henry Hobson Richardson and completed in 1887. So different from the Victorian houses that were being built at the time and eventually those, for the most part, were torn down. The House is a National Historic Landmark and offers wonderful tours with many of the rooms accurately restored to their original appearance and decorative objects and furnishings have been added by the Glessner family. John Glessner lived there until 1936 and thousands tour the house every year. Henry Hobson Richardson never got to see his creation built since he died after he completed the blue prints. Many have seen him walk the halls. Even during the time the Glessner family lived there, Haunted houses.com claim that many family member felt a cold presence moving through the mansion,even today.

The Glessner House Museum offers haunted tours of historic Prairie Avenue. Director of the Glessner House has admitted that there is a strange feeling that has been experienced on the street. The Keith House, privately owned by Marcy Baim, is another on the street. It has been restored, at 1900 Prairie and offers special events such as weddings.

The Kimball House: The house was built in 1890–92 for William Wallace Kimball, a piano manufacturer. I still have a Kimball upright that was built in 1949.  Kimball reportedly spent $1,000,000 on the home. The house is located at 1801 Prairies and though some feel that the outside design is cold, the inside is beautiful with maple floors and 29 rooms which have been sub- divided though many have stayed the same such as the library, huge drawing room, and dining room that housed Mrs. Kimballs massive silver collection. She also collected many paintings by such artists as Rembrandt, Millet, and Monet including many others. But when Mrs Kimball died in 1921, the house was converted to a boarding house which eventually failed and was bought by Daisy Hull for 8,000 in backward children. But finally, the house, along with the Coleman house at 1811 were acquired by R. R. Donnelley in 1973 who donated them to the Chicago Architecture Foundation in 1991.  They leased and then sold the properties to the U. S. Soccer Federation for use as their national headquarters, which is how the building is used today. Mrs Kimball still walks the halls. Noises have been heard along with apparitions seen as well as the feeling of being watched.

The Marshall Field Jr House was designed by architect Solon Spencer Beman, the home sold to the son of one of Chicago’s most famous 19th century entrepreneurs for $65,000 in 1890. After a stint as a psychiatric hospital, the structure was sold to the Chicago Architectural Foundation in the 1970s before being partitioned into condominiums in 2007. There are six million dollar condos with a private courtyard in the back. In the past, there have been claims to hear footsteps and strange cries.

Glessner House

By Caryl Clem:

Mrs. Frances Glessner started Monday Morning Reading classes on November 21, 1894 to explore great scholars and experts’ works with 25 or more Chicago ladies. The tradition to inspire and provoke thoughts is still alive and thriving.  Standing indestructible on stone blocks at 1800 Prairie Street, the Glessner House is a Chicago cornerstone.  Visibly Glessner’s outside is stern, simple architecture, an original Richardson Romanesque, inside gracious airy rooms. The Glessner home was deeded to Chicago after the couple’s deaths as a museum to provide a place for great minds to find expression and appreciate culture.

William Rainey Harper, Yale graduate became President of the University of Chicago from 1891-1906.  He wanted woman faculty newcomers to be able to meet prominent Chicago wives throughout Chicago. He approached Frances Glessner for suggestions and the Monday Morning Reading classes were born. The Who’s Who of Chicago’s aristocratic Southside met educational trailblazers from a variety of cultures.   Many of the faculty wives were living in crude conditions while homes were built.  The city seemed foreign and difficult to maneuver for these university women.  Friendships emerged during the meetings that made strangers to Chicago feel welcomed.

John Glessner’s farm machinery business finesse resulted in the formation of International Harvester. He instigated the mergerof the largest farm implement companies together to end the reaper wars. He devoted his after work hours to serving various organizations to improve life in Chicago. The following are just the tip of his social iceberg:  Citizen’s Advisory Board to Chicago, Chicago Relief and Aid Society, Chicago Orphan Asylum, Rush Medical Group, Art Institute of Chicago and trustee of Chicago Orchestra Association.

The Chicago Architecture Foundation in 1966 did not want to see the Glessner house meet the fate of other homes of the Gilded Age suffering neglect and eventual tear down.  The home was fortified for continued use. The architect Henry Hobson Richardson died before he could see his completed masterpiece. Rumors abound that a white entity is seen floating in different rooms in the house leaving a telltale trail of cold air. John Drury mention in his book, Old Chicago Houses, that rooms were a laboratory for  the Institute of Technology  designing aptitude tests for students to identify what career choice best suits their personality and strengths . Glessner house is now a museum.

https://www.glessnerhouse.org/programs

Memories of the Pump Room

In my best dress, I barely remember eating in a beautiful booth with my Mom and Dad; one of my first Baby boomer childhood trips of elegance. In later years, I celebrated a friend from college’s birthday and excited about seeing the unexpected appearance of one of Charlie’s Angels; a TV series in the late 1970’s and Kate Jackson was her name from the program. My daughter also celebrated a friends birthday at the Pump Room in the 2000’s; bottom picture, my daughter, is second from the right. Dining at the Pump Room, opening on October 1st in 1938 and located at the famous Ambassador East Hotel in Chicago was a popular place for many celebrities who wanted to be seen such as Frank Sinatra, Elizabeth Taylor, Natalie Wood, and even Judy Garland and her children. It was the infamous booth number one where they would eat together. It always remained vacant until someone important arrived. The table actually had access to a rotary phone where they could make and receive calls. They could also unplug the phone from the wall if they wanted privacy.

Ernie Byfield created the restaurant based on the concept of the original Pump Room in Bath, England, where aristocrats would meet and wanted the same for celebrities visiting Chicago. It worked. Another area I remember is the hall leading to the restaurant that for over 50 years have shared the framed celebrity photos that fill the walls of the room’s entrance, lives that are gone for many. The Ambassador East was located on the northeast corner of State Parkway and Goethe Street in Chicago ‘s Gold Coast area and later was renamed. Until the 1950’s, train travel across the US was the only way and celebrities would have a special cross-country Pullman car switching at the LaSalle Street Station. Sometimes they would stay overnight but they did have a suite where they could freshen before returning to the train. Many stayed for lunch at the Pump room. Irv Kupcinet also talked about the Pump room and his celebrity interviews in his column for the Chicago Sun-times.

According to a wonderful article by Dr. Neil Gail, Saving Illinois History One Step At A Time, in 2010 real estate developer Ian Schrager—known for cofounding New York’s Studio 54—buys the Ambassador East for $25 million. In 2011, assets are auctioned off including the phone and is remodeled which reopens as Public Chicago. In 2016, Schrager sells Public Chicago to investors Shapack Partners and Gaw Capital for $61.5 million. In 2017, the hotel is renamed Ambassador Chicago. Rich Melman’s restaurant group, which formerly owned the Pump Room, returns to manage the space and renames it Booth One. After a remodel, the team installs a rotary phone at the famed table. The actually operated the Pump Room from 1976-1998.

The Pump Room went through many changes before finally closing in 2019. Ebay offers some great items of the historic Pump room including a variety of match covers, boxes and menus.

A few famous Chicago firsts

           

By Caryl Clem:

Many Chicago firsts lay quietly documented in print unknown to current Chicagoans.  

            A wealthy man traveled to Chicago in 1835 during heavy storms to supervise his brother-in-laws purchase of land in a settlement along Lake Michigan. The roads were muddy trails trapping stagecoaches, too swampy to even walk. The steady flow of settlers buying property along the Lake cumulated in a quick profit after selling only 1/3 of the land. William Butler Ogden, keenly aware of Chicago’s potential, stayed to build this city into a Midwest commercial center. He gave up his New York Senate seat.

            In 1837, William Ogden and 2 others ushered Chicago into cityhood complete with seal and motto Ogden had been the railroad genius consulted by Vice President Marin Van Buren to enable railroads to stretch from the East to Pennsylvania and New York.  Ogden as a member of the New York Assembly convinced members to fund railroads. He served as President on the committee that planned the western railroad expansions.  Believing transportation development was crucial for growth, he merged over 20 small railroads into the C & NW by 1863 cementing Chicago’s future success.

            The marshy canal laced land tracts were bought by the Chicago Land Company in 1853; Chicago’s first mayor was a principal stockholder.  Ogden had this land drained. .   Originally, Goose Island was heavily populated by Irish immigrants.  Alderman Thomas Keane recalled homeowners in the 1890’s loved raising chickens and gardening in the city while living near work.  After the Depression, failed businesses, fewer occupants decreased to three residents by 1970.  In 1990, Daley’s Planned Manufacturing District push revived this area.  

            The first beer research and brewing company in the United States in 1968, founded by a German chemist, John Edward Siebel became Siebel Institute of Technology.  Famous graduates John W. Stroh, Jr. and August A. Busch III demonstrated the quality of instruction offered.  John Hall bought a brewery in 1988 on Goose Island and created Chicago beers. all opens a brewery  In 2003, Siebel Institute offered classes at the Goose Island Brewpub on Clybourne Ave.

            Ogden lost his childhood sweetheart weeks before the wedding; he remained single until age 70.  He built a large house for his sister and mother hosting affairs for future Chicago supporters with a piano accompanied sing along and dinner party, truly Chicago’s first tycoon. He entertained famous guests Martin Van Buren and Daniel Webster. He was active in real estate, iron ore mining, lumbering, banking, and city transit systems.  His personal lawyer to secure land title transfers was Abraham Lincoln.  After the Great Fire in 1871, he moved back to New York City. His ability to shape greatness enabled Chicago to come roaring back, better and stronger from the fire’s ashes.

Chicago’s Botanic Garden, Proof of Chicago’s Early Nickname

By Caryl Clem

The Chicago Horticultural Society joined forces with the Forest Preserve to acquire 385 acres of land in 1965. The new venture was named Chicago Botanic Garden. The ability to view over 20 unique gardens designed with plants that thrive in Chicago’s environment opened in 1972. Mother Nature is on parade featuring 26 million plants. . Plants from a variety of countries that do well in this climate are on display. In 1837 when the city was incorporated, Chicago’s first seal had Latin phrase, “Urbs in Horto” translated to “City in a Garden”. This vision had become a reality.

Mayor William Ogden was inspired by a famous landscaper from New York in 1828, Andre Parmentier, who stated, “botany was a science; landscape in horticultural gardens was an art.” Previously large city gardens had mazes, walkways, water fountains or statues with a few blooms. while the smaller English cottage gardens were dominated by flowers. Blending the two designs was the new trend. Gardens were a symbol of stability and cultural artistic appreciation. Chicago’s image needed the comforting atmosphere of a garden to offset the labor unrest in a growing industrial giant.

Chicago Botanic Garden reclaimed swampy undesirable land creating waterfalls, a small lake, bridges and breathtaking exhibits.  Their motto, “We cultivate the power of plants to sustain and enrich life” can be experienced throughout the nine laboratories, nine islands, 4 nature areas, and 6 miles along the lakeside. Labeled lush foliage and drought resistant hardy plants renew your interest in expanding your yard’s potential as you examine the possibilities.  Exhibit buildings offer art and botanical related exhibits. Even though one edge hugs the Highland Park Golf Course, you are in a private domain removed from city activity. Members have access to free plants and seedlings, concerts, free parking and a variety of events. 

Living on Lake Shore Drive

As a Baby Boomer lifer in Chicago and the suburbs when I graduated college from Lewis University, I had picked out 3550 Lakeshore Drive where I would live. I ended up moving much further north in Gurnee for my first teaching job. But that’s what we did back in the 1970’s/1980’s after high school or college. We picked out our Lakeshore Drive home. Where did you want to live then or even now? As as a young child, it was Outer Drive East built in 1963 with the geoplastic covered pool. My mother wanted luxurious Lake Point Towers. A friend lived at 900/ 910 Lake Shore Drive in the 1980’s. Now, I can’t begin to find Outer Drive East since so many new buildings tower above it.

According to sources, Lake Shore Drive’s origins date back to Potter Palmer, who coerced the city to build the street adjacent to his lakefront property to enhance its value. Palmer built his “castle” at 1350 N. Lake Shore Drive in 1882. The drive was originally intended for leisurely strolls for the wealthy in their carriages, but when bringing on the auto industry, that changed quickly.

The condos at 3550 Lakeshore Drive are pretty popular still with a store and exercise room and children would attend Lakeview schools. 400 E. Randolph 400 East Randolph Street Condominiums or simply 400 East Randolph is a 40-story high-rise in Chicago and considered Outer Drive East. It was the first high-rise residence constructed on the east side of Lake Shore drive, in an area that has become The New Eastside. You can buy or rent as small as a studio. Other amenities for 400 East Randolph residents included a full service restaurant and bar, beauty salon, dry cleaners, convenience store, 1000 book lending library and 2000 sqft hospitality room with catering kitchen.

At the time of its completion in 1968, the 645-foot tall Lake Point Tower was the tallest apartment building in the world. You may rent or own a condo…generally renting a three bedroom for about 5,000 a month. Definitely a city within a city with many shops and service with a four lane heated swimming pool and state of the art fitness center including a racquetball and handball court.

910 Lake Shore Drive was designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe the architecturally significant modern style 26 story building was built in 1951 along with 900 N Lake Shore Drive. They were originally called The Esplanade Apartments and now house 524 condos combined. 

Dog N Suds

By Caryl Clem

The lure of extra money propelled 2 university music professors Don Hamacher and Jim Griggs to open a stand in 1953.  Every college campus offered cheap food hotspots; University Of Illinois in Champaign was no exception. A nothing fancy, DogNSuds Drive In, serving dogs and root beer evolved into a 68 year old company.  How?  Legendary DogNSuds was a lucky merger between a satisfied older lady customer offering cash support and an unforgettable logo. Read on for the real story……

“ Brother, what was your most memorable experience?”  He sat back in his chair, his eyes brightening.   He started, “This is a story not in print but true. I played a part in the DogNSuds logo formation.  A contest was held, the winner would be the emblem for Don and Jim’s growing company venture. Professors I knew.  My fraternity roommate drew the final draft of our combined ideas.   First, an animal Americans’ love had to be selected.  Almost in unison, several young men shouted,” A Dog” !  Perfect connection to hot dogs on the menu. Time debating on what action the dog would do. No agreement until a collection of ideas resulted in a logical conclusion, a dog carrying a tray of food.  My roommate and I exchanged ideas drawing the image, The Winner !.  The intensity of team spirit that night I will never forget.”

The first logo, Disney felt infringed on their characters, so the dog went through a face lift.  During the age of muscle cars, a trip to the drive in was an event showing off your vehicle . The Ingleside DogNSuds  started the practice of “Saturday Night Cruising”.  A magazine commented that by the 1960’s if the town had a stoplight, it had a Dog N Suds. Beginning in 1963, 2 locations still open today are: Richmond, IL. that remains a small family run business  and Grayslake , IL .under new management of the 5th owner.

After declining  sales during the 80’s DogNSuds was sold to Van Dame company in 1991 ; eventually all rights  went  to the current company TK&C’s LLC. The joy taking a trip to one of those Drive Ins will never fade for me. Celebrating summer, cruising, munching  on a Coney dog while sipping frothy stick to your lips root beer. Memories carried in the heat of a summer breeze. Take a trip back in time by reading a book by one of the Cofounders, Don Hamacher: The Journey Through The Life Of Don Hamacher released in 2012.

The amazing life of Miss Frances

I don’t remember her since I was only about 3 or 4 but my Mother, who died the same year in 2001, did not like her because she always told the children on television to run and find their mother. And that is what I did, supposedly, every time I watched her. Miss Frances would then discuss with Moms what supplies were needed for projects. Miss Frances was the host of the children’s television program Ding Dong School, seen weekday mornings on the NBC network in the 1950s and nationally syndicated between 1959 and 1965. Each began with the ringing of a handbell. Miss Frances Horwith was extremely bright and grew up in Ohio skipping many grades because of her intelligence and love of academics.

She came to Chicago and earned her Bachelors degree from the University of Chicago in 1929. She taught first grade from 1929-1932 at a school in Evanston. According to sources, she then became the supervisor of the Works Progress Administration‘s nursery schools in Chicago until 1935. She earned a Masters at Columbia University, directed junior kindergartens and became Dean of education at Pestalozzi-Fröbel Haus Teachers College. Finally, she earned a doctorate at Northwestern and was in variety positions as a Chicago school counselor positions and taught at Roosevelt University.

Ding Dong School was a half hour children’s TV show which began in Chicago in 1952 and the first pre-school series before Romper Room by one year. Just after the show aired for the first time, the station received 150 phone calls praising the show. She was the only one on air admired by Fred Roger and activities could range from modeling clay to finger-painting. She had over a million viewers and won the Peabody Award but the show was cancelled because she refused to commercialize childrens education.

She was the author of over 25 children’s books and had moved to Arizona since her husband was having health issues in the 1970’s A month before her death, Horwich was inducted into the Silver Circle of the Chicago Chapter of the National Academy of the Television Arts and Sciences on June 2, 2001. She died of congestive heart failure at the age of 94.

Thorndyke Hilton Chapel in Chicago

Miss Mavis Emerson, daughter of Lottie Emerson of Kempton, and John Korff were married at 1pm Saturday, August 5, 1949 in the Thorndike Hilton Memorial Chapel at the University of Chicago with Reverend Robert E Tinker officiating. The bride wore a gown of white silk chiffon over white satin with a full skirt and front panel with imported lace.…….. And the article from the Pentagraph continues to describe the Maid of Honors dress, Arlene Gates from Kankakee, in explicit detail though I was fortunate to have pictures and a movie. My mother, Mavis Korff, was a secretary, my father owner of Glass Sales and Service at 6755 South Chicago Ave and began their marriage at 2148 East 81 Street. However, the story is about the quaint Thorndike Hilton Memorial Chapel where hundreds of Chicagoans were married. It was especially popular for weddings during and after World War 2. At the end of the article, couples are listed that you may know.

Thorndike Hilton Memorial Chapel was located at 5757 South University Avenue which was the former Chicago Theological Seminary building located at was adaptively reused to house instructional and research programs for the Department of Economics and the office, conference, and research facilities for the Becker Friedman Institute for Research in Economics. The chapel was built 1926 and was donated by Mr. and Mrs Henry Hilton in memory of their son Thorndike who died at the age of 21.

Visitors to area could still take a break inside the chapel during the early 2000’s.
The seminary website said: “Our Thorndike Hilton Chapel is open twenty-four hours a day and available for students seeking a place to lead small gatherings or to spend time in individual prayer and meditation. The cloisters, a long corridor with one wall of glass doors that look out on the stone-terraced garth, is also a favorite place to reflect, especially during the afternoon hours when the hall is flooded with sunlight.” Dee Stribling talks about her visit to the chapel and though small, quite powerful. Its glory is in the stain glass windows that are exquisite.

Just to name a few that married at the chapel:

James Thomas Jones to Esther Mildred-1937, Shirley Stansbury married Robert Thomas – 1949, Dorothy (Dottie) Louise Watson married Howard Hilton-1948, Jean Hambly to Stuart Miller- 1946, Gwendolyn Lucille Cattorini to Walter J. Schroeder-1943,Gordon Lee Mennen to Teresa Harms, 1942, Ivan McDaniel to Lois Stansbury-1957, Kathyrn Marshall to Walter Taylor-1942, Elizabeth Law to Theodore Roberts-1953

EBay offers wonderful postcards of the chapel; some I own but there are some that are currently out of stock.